If you’re planning a trip to India, having a reliable source of internet access is essential. Whether it’s finding your way around unfamiliar cities, discovering the top-rated restaurants, making online reservations, hailing a taxi, or sharing memorable moments with your loved ones, having internet access on the go can greatly enhance your travel experience.
While roaming is an option, the costs can quickly accumulate, especially when traveling internationally. Therefore, it is advisable to consider either an eSIM or a local SIM card to take advantage of the more affordable local phone rates.
Thankfully, obtaining an eSIM or a local SIM card in India is a hassle-free process. Nevertheless, it is important to understand which option is better suited for your needs. This guide aims to provide you with all the essential information regarding purchasing a SIM card in India, including the most up-to-date pricing and recommendations on the best SIM card available for you to buy.
The best sim card in India is the 299 INR prepaid sim card with 2GB data per day by Jio.
There are three mobile internet operators in India: Airtel, Jio and Vi (Vodafone). All three operators offer fairly similar prices and packages and all three will work fine, however, Jio has the best coverage across the country which is why I recommend it slightly above the others.
For the price, you really can’t beat any of the local prepaid sim cards, however, if you’re looking for the most convenient option then I also have to recommend purchasing an Airalo eSim. With an eSim you can easily order your sim card now then activate it at the airport when you arrive – it’s much easier than finding a store and buying in person!
A Tourist Sim Card in India costs around 299 INR in February 2024, however, the exact price will often depend on the store you visit and the plan you choose.
Alternatively, an eSim in India will cost between $4.50 USD and $27 USD. This, again, depends on how much data you require and which eSim provider you choose.
I generally recommend this Airalo plan for most tourists visiting India which includes 5GB of data which is valid for 30 days and costs $16 USD.
In India, the main SIM card providers are Airtel, Jio, and Vi. Airtel, operated by Bharti Airtel Limited, is one of the largest telecommunication companies and offers extensive network coverage across the country. With a wide range of prepaid and postpaid plans, Airtel provides various services like voice calling, high-speed internet, and digital entertainment.
Jio, owned by Reliance Industries Limited, revolutionized the telecom sector with its affordable data plans and high-speed 4G network. It quickly gained popularity by offering unlimited voice calls and cheap internet packages. Jio’s extensive network and budget-friendly plans have attracted millions of users.
Vi, formerly known as Vodafone Idea Limited, is a merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. It offers a wide range of services, including voice calls, data, and digital entertainment. Vi, known for its strong network coverage and diverse data plans, caters to a large consumer base in India.
Airtel, one of India’s leading telecom companies, offers convenient tourist SIM cards for travelers visiting the country. With excellent network coverage across India, Airtel ensures uninterrupted connectivity. Their SIM cards provide data, calling, and messaging services, giving tourists hassle-free communication. Airtel’s tourist SIM cards can be easily obtained at airports, hotels, or retail outlets. They come with various packages suitable for different durations and budgets, making them a reliable choice for travelers exploring India.
The price of a Airtel tourist sim card in India is 299 INR.
The plan offered by Airtel stores includes 1.5GB data per day + unlimited calls valid for 28 days.
Jio, a leading telecom operator in India, offers convenient tourist SIM cards for travelers. These SIM cards provide exceptional coverage and high-speed internet access across the country, making it easier for tourists to stay connected. With budget-friendly plans, Jio allows tourists to make unlimited calls, send texts, and browse the internet hassle-free. Jio’s reliable network and affordable tariffs make it a preferred choice for tourists visiting India.
The price of a Jio tourist sim card in India is 299 INR.
The plan offered by Jio stores offers 2GB data per day valid for 28 days.
Vi, formerly known as Vodafone Idea, offers excellent tourist sim card options in India. Their packages cater specifically to the needs of travelers, providing easy connectivity and hassle-free internet access across the country. Vi’s sim cards offer high-speed data, unlimited calls within India, and access to various popular apps. With Vi sim cards, tourists can explore India confidently, stay connected, and share their incredible experiences with friends and family back home.
The price of a Vi tourist sim card in India is 299 INR.
The plan offered by Vi stores includes 1.5GB data per day valid for 28 days.
Identify mobile providers: Airtel, Jio and Vi are your best options in India.
Find your nearest store: Locate a store or retailer by searching on Google Maps for your nearest store or asking at your hotel reception. I’ve never had issues finding a store as they can usually be found in major cities, shopping centers, or tourist areas. If possible, I always recommend to to avoid airports and head in to an official store in the city.
Bring the necessary documents: It is always a good idea to carry your passport or identification documents for sim card registration purposes. We’ve found most providers will need to confirm your identity to provide a sim card and it can be a major hassle to head to a store only to have to come back again later with your passport.
Choose your plan: Either request the plan you are after or consult with the staff in the store to select the right plan for you. My recommendations at the beginning of this guide are a good starting point, but the staff will usually be able to suggest the best option.
Pay and activate your card: Pay for the SIM card and plan, and the staff will activate it for you.
Test: It’s always a good idea to check that you can access the internet before you leave the store. I always search for something on Google then refresh my Instagram feed to check it’s working fine.
Buying a prepaid sim card for India at the airport is usually considered the most convenient option for travellers arriving by plane.
However, airport stores selling sim cards are almost guaranteed to charge inflated prices, so if you are a cost-conscious traveller then you should definitely buy your sim card from a store in the city center.
In addition to this, we would argue that buying physical sim cards at all aren’t particularly convenient now that most people use esim compatible phones. If you are looking for the most convenient option, then buying an esim before you arrive or with the airport wifi is much easier and will save you having to queue up or communicate with staff.
If you must purchase a sim card at the airport in India then you will be in luck. All major international airports in India have stores selling sim cards. Despite the prices being higher than normal, the staff are knowledgable and will be able to get you set up with the correct sim card relatively quickly.
If you want to avoid the inflated sim card prices you’ll find at the airport and your phone isn’t esim compatible, then you’re going to need to head in to a store to buy your sim card.
I recommend visiting one of the official retail stores of the mobile internet operators such as Airtel, Jio and Vi. Your best option is to enter their names into Google Maps and find the branch closest to your hotel or accommodation. Typically the staff in the official stores in India are knowledgable and helpful which means you can ensure you’ll walk away with a functioning sim card.
Despite this, it’s always a good idea to check your internet is working before you leave the store by loading a Google search results page and your preferred social media app. You should also ensure you always bring your passport with you when purchasing a sim card in case they need to register it.
If you like to be prepared and would prefer to arrive in India with your sim card all sorted and your phone ready to connect to the internet immediately then you should look into purchasing a sim card online.
The first option is to buy your sim card in advance via SimOptions, which is a company that will prepare and ship a sim card directly to your door. It’s a reliable and effective service, but with the invention of eSims it’s becoming obsolete.
The better option is to purchase an eSim online. We’ve written more on that below!
An eSim is a digital version of a traditional sim card and is most likely the future of connectivity for mobile devices. The convenience of no longer visiting a store, handing over your passport and purchasing a physical sim card is quickly making physical sim cards obsolete in favour of eSims.
We recommend Airalo’s eSim when travelling to India. The Airalo India eSim offers fast internet speeds, wide coverage and extremely competitive prices making it a far more compelling option than purchasing a physical sim card from any of the local sim card providers.
In order to get set up with an Airalo eSim, all you need to do is visit Airalo here and purchase the eSim online (the $16 USD plan is suitable for most travellers). Once you’ve purchased the sim card Airalo will email you instructions and a QR code. Following these instructions should take just a couple of minutes, then you’ll have a sim card in India without having to venture outside.
Our preferred eSim provider in India is Airalo. We used them, alongside a local sim card on another device, for our most recent trip to India and found the service to be equal to the local sim card but without the hassle of acquiring a sim card in a store.
Airalo’s India eSim uses the Airtel network to provide data and connect users to the internet. You can expect very good coverage and reliability with the Airtel networknetwork as they are amongst the best mobile internet operators in India.
Here are the plans and prices for Airalo’s India eSim:
1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $4.50 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $11 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $16 USD
10GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $27 USD
For most travellers we recommend the 5GB data plan for $16 USD which is valid for 30 days. Some travellers may prefer a larger plan, whilst travellers visiting for just a couple of days may be fine with a smaller plan.
An alternative eSim provider we can recommend is Holafly.
Holafly’s eSim is a suitable option for travellers who require large amounts of data, such as digital nomads and people who work online while they travel. All of Holafly’s India eSims offer unlimited data.
Holafly’s India eSim uses the Airtelnetwork to provide data and connect users to the internet. This network will provide reliable speeds and coverage while in India
Here are the plans and prices for Holafly’s India eSim:
6GB data valid for 15 days – Price: $44 USD
The eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a digital SIM card embedded within a device like a phone or tablet. Unlike traditional SIM cards, it does not require physical insertion or removal.
Instead, the eSIM is part of the device’s hardware and can be remotely activated and programmed by a mobile network operator. This enables users to switch between different networks or plans without physically changing SIM cards.
eSIM technology offers convenience and flexibility, especially for frequent travelers or those who frequently change networks. It eliminates the need for physical SIM cards, making it easier to manage multiple connections on one device.
To activate an eSIM, users can scan a QR code or enter activation details provided by their network operator. Once activated, the device can connect to the chosen network and access voice, data, and messaging services like a regular SIM card.
Using an eSIM can be beneficial for several reasons:
– Convenience: No need to physically insert or remove a SIM card when switching networks or plans, which is helpful for frequent travelers.
– Dual SIM functionality: Allows for two active mobile numbers on the same device, useful for separating personal and work numbers or managing multiple phone lines.
– Space-saving: As eSIMs are embedded within the device, it eliminates the need for a physical SIM card slot, freeing up space for other components or making devices smaller.
– Remote provisioning: Activation and management of mobile plans can be done remotely, without needing a physical SIM card or visiting a store, providing flexibility and convenience.
– Future-proofing: With increasing support for eSIMs, using an eSIM-compatible device ensures access to new services and offerings as they become available.
In summary, eSIM technology offers flexibility, convenience, and future-proofing for mobile connectivity.
eSIM technology is becoming increasingly popular and is supported by a growing number of smartphones and other devices. Here are some examples of eSIM-compatible phones:
Apple iPhone series (iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, etc.): Apple was one of the early adopters of eSIM technology and offers support for eSIM on various iPhone models.
Google Pixel series (Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Pixel 5, etc.): Google’s Pixel smartphones also support eSIM functionality, allowing users to activate and use eSIMs.
Samsung Galaxy series (Galaxy S22, Galaxy Note 20, etc.): Many of Samsung’s flagship devices now come with eSIM support, enabling users to utilize eSIM technology.
OnePlus devices (OnePlus 7, OnePlus 8, etc.): OnePlus has included eSIM support in some of its smartphone models, offering users the flexibility of using eSIMs.
Motorola Razr (2020): The latest iteration of the iconic Motorola Razr features eSIM compatibility, enabling users to use eSIMs for cellular connectivity.
These are just a few examples, and the list of eSIM-compatible phones continues to expand as more manufacturers embrace this technology. There’s a very strong chance your phone supports eSims so if you’re unsure we recommend looking it up on our list of eSim supported phones.
Using an eSim is new for many travellers, however, the good news is it’s surprisingly easy to get set up – even for the technologically challenged!
Here’s a general guide on how to use an eSIM:
Check eSIM Compatibility: Ensure that your device supports eSIM functionality. Many newer smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other devices are eSIM compatible including all iPhones produced since 2018.
Obtain an eSIM: There are multiple ways to acquire an eSIM. You can purchase an eSIM online from a provider like Airalo (which we recommend) or directly from a mobile network operator. Some devices also allow you to scan a QR code provided by your carrier to download the eSIM profile.
Activate the eSIM: Your eSim provider will send you instructions to activate the sim. This will usually involve scanning a QR code, entering an activation code, or downloading the eSIM profile directly onto your device.
Set up the eSIM: Once activated, your device will guide you through the eSIM setup process. This typically involves selecting the eSIM as your preferred mobile plan, configuring settings like data roaming, and entering any necessary authentication details.
Enjoy the Connection: Once the eSIM is set up, you can use it as you would with a physical SIM card. Make calls, send messages, browse the internet, and use data services as needed. You can also switch between eSIM profiles if you have multiple eSIMs installed on your device.
Hi, I’m Mitchell. I’m a full-time traveller, explorer and travel blogger. Travel Sim Expert is a blog dedicated to helping you find the best sim card for you, no matter where you are or what your budget is.